New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Part 2 "Heading for the Cape"

   Day 2 (Oct 13)- Jen and I got an early start on Thursday morning. With the weather forecast predicting 40% chance of rain for Thursday and 80% for Friday, there was no need to rush to get to the Cape. We decided to take our time and bird our way through Rhode Island via Newport (our usual route). Our first stop was Easton Beach to see the Avocets again for the fifth time. The sky appeared to be clearing, and the wind was strong southerly. Combined with the high tide, large waves were breaking on the beach sending surging water up the beach to nearly the sea wall by the road. Flocks of Sanderlings ran along the beach dodging the incoming surge with great skill.


    By the Easton Pond outpouring, the five Avocets stood contented with a small flock of Laughing Gulls. I couldn’t help myself, I had to take just a few more images of these striking birds, a wonderful gift to the birders in Rhode Island and surrounding states to enjoy.

     Looking over to the crashing surf at the extreme east end of the beach, a flock of a hundred Sanderlings flew in from the ocean, circled the area, and then landed effortlessly on the soft pillowy sand of the beach a few feet from the contrasting turbulent sea.

      Another favorite Shorebirding spot of ours is Third beach. If you time it right, good numbers of Shorebirds can be found here. On the beach to the south of the parking area, small flocks of Shorebirds were flying up and down the beach; Sanderlings, Dunlins, Ruddy Turnstones, Semi-palmated Plovers and Sandpipers, and Black-bellied Plovers.

                                      Semi-palmatd Sandpiper and Dunlin 

              Ruddy Turnstones, Semi-palmated Sandpipers and Semi-palmated Plovers

     Along the beach to the north of the parking lot, at the mouth of the inlet creek, a good sized gull roost was present including a few terns. There were nearly a hundred Laughing Gulls dominating the roost with a few Herring, Great black-backed and Ring-billed Gulls. Small numbers of terns were flying off the bay towards the Reservoir, mostly Common Terns. Forster’s Terns were feeding along the beach and just offshore and were landing on the beach at the head of the gull roost.

                    Laughing Gulls, Herring/Greater black-backed and Ring-billed Gulls

                                             Forster's Tern with Laughing Gulls

                                                               Forster's Terns

     Soon after we were on Route 24 on the way to 195 and Cape Cod. So far the weather was holding with no sign of the rain. We would soon be at the Cove Hotel in Orleans, where everyone from the group would be staying. With check-in completed, and with a couple of hours remaining in the day, we made a quick stop at First Encounter Beach. As we approached the marsh behind the beach, a single Great Blue Heron was stalking fish very close to the road. The Heron was so focused on the shallow water, it didn’t realize it had walked within a few feet of our truck.


     On the beach, the tide was very low and the sand flats were vast and expansive; extending nearly half a mile out. A few hundred Shorebirds mostly Black-bellied Plovers, Sanderlings and lesser numbers of Dunlins and Yellowlegs were spread out all over the sand flats. Four Brant were feeding along the shore in the tidal pools, which were the first Brant we have seen this season. Five Forster's Terns were circling the small tidal pools left behind by the retreating tide.

     We watched the Shorebirds for a half an hour and then we left for Provincetown to end the day. On the way to Route 6, we stopped at Samoset Pond ( a great winter waterfowl pond) and found a single drake Ringneck Duck (first of the season) and an adult Pied-billed Grebe.


    When we reached Macmillan’s Wharf in the late afternoon, the sun was peeking in and out of the clouds. In between the fingers of the docks were many groups of Common Eiders a sight that is quite “common” at the Pier. Many of the drakes were emerging from summer moult, and a myriad of earth toned plumage variations could be observed. 

                                                                   Eider hen

     There were two fishing vessels in port that had just offloaded their catches. The mates were cleaning the vessels and much of the bi-catch remnants were being hosed down off the decks. The “deck morsels” attracted Gulls and Eiders taking full advantage of the opportunity of an easy meal. But the offerings also attracted many large adult Grey Seals. The massive Seals were peering out of the water just a few yards below us giving us exceptional views of these magnificent mammals.


     As we sat there on the wharf, the wind diminished as a distant fogbank began to creep into the harbor, soon we were surrounded by that thickening shroud of fog which is “clearly” evident in the following image…….

     Leaving the wharf, we decided to try a sea watch at Herring Cove Beach. With the limited visibility we knew it would be an exercise in futility, but we were in Provincetown so we decided to make the best of it. When we drove into the parking lot of Herring Beach Cove, we couldn’t even see the low tide waterline from the parking lot, a distance normally about fifty yards. With the nearly zero visibility we thought it was best to head south to the hotel and get a good night sleep and fresh start in the morning. Friday was going to be an important day scouting the areas in preparation for the Hartford Audubon trip starting early Saturday morning. Our plan was to start our day at daybreak at Herring Cove Beach and walk down the beach to the inlet at Hatches Harbor to scan the large Gull roosts, if the weather permitted. Friday’s weather called for an 80% chance of rain all day and increasing winds to 35 knots…….with crossed fingers we hoped that the rain would go out to sea. As we said good night to Provincetown, the thick fog covered the entire area all the way back to Orleans.


Day 3 Provincetown Ramblings........